What could be better than a plastic bag? At ABQ, no more plastic bags

With the rise in food prices, Albuquerque is once again changing the rules around shopping bags. Mayor Tim Keller’s administration will now require stores to only offer those with “sewn-in handles.” But these bags have a dirty secret: the vast majority are plastic. All this policy is likely to accomplish is increase costs for struggling businesses. These costs will be passed on to consumers.

In an interview, City Councilor Pat Davis said the new rules are necessary because stores are handing out thicker reusable plastic bags – a so-called “loophole”. So the city came up with a solution: to require bags to be at least 4 mils thick and to have sewn-in handles.

But here’s the fun part. The reusable plastic bags that angered Davis were about half the thickness of the seemingly random new standard of 4 mil. It was only in Albuquerque that the government was able to double the thickness of plastic bags in an attempt to remove them from stores.

In addition to being thicker, these “sewn-in” bags, the kind retailers sell for a few dollars at the checkout, are made from plastics such as polypropylene, nylon, and polyethylene terephthalate. Most are imported from bag manufacturers based in some of the most polluting countries in the world. Research by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency has actually found that these sewn bags have greater environmental impacts than the bags they are meant to replace.

While this ridiculous ban is just another case of government intervention delivering the exact opposite of what was promised, it’s no laughing matter for small businesses and struggling families.

As costs skyrocket for everything due to supply chain disruptions, labor issues, shortages and inflation, they can expect another blow as Newly commissioned bags are significantly more expensive than what was previously allowed. When retailers can get their hands on bags, consumers can expect those costs to translate into higher costs – and getting bags isn’t a sure thing.

In recent weeks, communities as remote as Anchorage, Alaska, and North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, have voted to end their bag bans as stores struggle to find affordable alternatives. Small businesses in Washington state are reporting similar problems when trying to comply with their bag ban, which allows more flexibility than Albuquerque’s new “sewn-in grip” rule.

While a dollar or two every time a customer forgets their bag may not seem like much to some, this policy represents a regressive tax on our most vulnerable neighbors. With inflation the worst it has been in at least three decades, our leaders should focus on ways to help struggling families, without racking up additional costs for people trying to put food on the table. table.

Whether from an environmental or economic point of view, the latest diktats of the town hall seem likely to do more harm than good. Perhaps it is time for the newly elected city council to simply remove the complete ban on anti-environment and anti-freedom plastic bags and restore consumer choice.

The Rio Grande Foundation is New Mexico’s free market research institute and think tank. An advocate for open government, Patrick Monroe Brenner leads the foundation’s government transparency and accountability efforts.

Bryce K. Locke